Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ko-be like Mike?

For me, watching Kobe Bryant play invokes some weird feelings. His style most resembles that of Michael Jordan, and if you were a Knick fan during the 90s then memories of Jordan are always a mixed bag. Although he was New York’s biggest nemesis, he used his ability on the court to transcend basketball and become a worldly icon. One minute he was flashing his million dollar smile in a commercial, the next he was ripping the hearts out of Knick fans.

As a basketball fan of the 80s & 90s, it’s hard to deny Jordan’s greatness. At his peak he was the closest thing to perfection on the basketball court; it seemed that he was the only one capable of stopping himself from winning a championship. So when I see Kobe Bryant who closely resembles Michael’s game, my instinct is to put them on the same level. And I’m not the only one.

“Kobe Bryant is better than Michael Jordan… Kobe can do everything Michael did, and even a few things Michael couldn’t do. Kobe is just as good a defender. His killer instinct is just as pronounced. He can shoot, finish and explode. And just like Jordan, the more he’s pissed off, the more unstoppable he is.” –Jemele Hill, ESPN

“I played with both Kobe and Michael. I would have to say that Kobe Bryant is the better player. Kobe has a much better shot, handles the ball better, and just has more tricks to go along with his game. And just look at his career…he already has 3 rings and he’s going for his fourth this year.” — John Salley, former NBA player

“Kobe is arguably in the top 10 players of all time and is still in his prime. I dislike the guy and would find him hard to root for if he were a Knick, but he is the 2nd best all-around player in the league and singlehandedly would make just abut any current lottery team a playoff contender.” — Z-man, KnickerBlogger reader

“The more I watch Kobe Bryant rip through the NBA playoffs, the more drawn I become to the idea that he has become a little bit better basketball player than Michael Jordan. If you use your eyes, and you’re not wearing Jordan-colored sunglasses, you can see it.” — Anthony Wilson, Antwonomous.com

“I believe Kobe Bryant is a more talented offensive player than Michael Jordan. Looking at both players’ game film, Kobe is a better ball handler and plays much more comfortably on the perimeter than Jordan. Kobe also has better shooting range and a wider variety of moves compared to Jordan, who prefers to use mid-range game and post game.” — Ling Ge, Bleacher Report

While most of the quotes I chose were from people who thought that Bryant was a better player, it’s realistic to think that there’s a sizable percentage of fans that think Bryant is on the same level as Jordan. But is this true? Let’s compare their statistics at the same age.

Jordan vs. Kobe Scoring (per-36 minutes)

Player | Year |   G |  PER |  TS% | eFG% |  FGA | 3PA |  3P% | FTA |  FT% | PTS
Bryant | 2009 | 948 | 23.6 | .558 | .488 | 18.9 | 3.7 | .341 | 7.6 | .840 | 24.8
Jordan | 1993 | 667 | 29.8 | .589 | .526 | 21.8 | 1.3 | .301 | 8.4 | .846 | 30.0

Jordan vs. Kobe Non-Scoring (per-36 minutes)

Player | Year | ORB | DRB | TRB | AST | STL | BLK | TOV | PF
Bryant | 2009 | 1.2 | 4.0 | 5.2 | 4.6 | 1.5 | 0.6 | 2.9 | 2.6
Jordan | 1993 | 1.6 | 4.3 | 5.9 | 5.5 | 2.5 | 1.0 | 2.8 | 2.7

Their games appear similar to the naked eye, but from these numbers it’s clear that Jordan was far superior to Bryant. As John Salley noted Bryant does have a better shot (especially from three), but Jordan’s superior interior game (including getting to the line) made him a more potent scorer. And Michael was a better all around player. Jordan was better in scoring efficiency (eFG%/TS%), scoring volume (pts/36), rebounding, steals, assists, and blocks.

Although Kobe is good in many areas, Jordan was flat out dominant. If you count all the seasons where a player averaged 30 pts/36 with a true shooting percentage over 58.9% (Jordan’s averages at Kobe’s age) since the 3-point era, you’ll find only 4 such seasons. Three belong to Jordan, and the fourth is Kiki Vandeweghe. Do the same with Kobe’s averages (24.8 pts/36, 55.8 ts%), and you’ll find 113 seasons. Kobe only has 4 of those seasons, while Jordan appears on that list 10 times.

The reason I bring this comparison up is to qualify the importance of statistics. Before looking up the numbers, my brain linked the two players because of their similar style of play. Granted there was always a section of grey matter that questioned their equality due to Bryant’s lack of a title as his team’s centerpiece. Because of their resemblances, my subconscious made a connection between the pair. This is known as “representativeness heuristic” where:

People tend to judge the probability of an event by finding a ‘comparable known’ event and assuming that the probabilities will be similar. As a part of creating meaning from what we experience, we need to classify things. If something does not fit exactly into a known category, we will approximate with the nearest class available.

In other words since Kobe plays like Jordan, and is similar enough to him, people attribute Jordan’s other attributes to Kobe. But in reality this is false. Bryant is a good player, but nowhere near Michael’s level. And without statistics that subtle but important difference may not be clear.

43 comments on “Ko-be like Mike?

  1. elitethatsme

    I’m going to tell you why this comparison is ridiculous.

    Kobe Bryant = 3 Rings as the 2nd best player (by far) on his own team. Shaq was the reason L.A. won those championships. Kobe helped, but without Shaq… That team wins 0. As the best player on his team, Kobe has only accomplished one finals appearence. Something Lebron James has already done (at a much younger age, with a much much much MUCH worse team).

    Michael Jordon = 6 rings as the best player on his team, by far. Only 2 guard to ever do this. It’s not even close.

    The Lakers will be steamrolled by the Cavs this year, which will finally put to end the talk of Kobe being anywhere even close to Jordan. If anything, Lebron is the one we should be talking about.

  2. David Crockett

    I propose a Football Outsiders style comment forms, one for each player…

    If you think Kobe is better, please fill out the form below.

    This comparison is completely ridiculous because (please check one):

    ___ You can use statistics to say anything. WATCH the games and put down your slide rule Pointdexter. Kobe used Michael’s fist pump after Michael passed the torch. You cannot deny this.

    ___ Kobe is sick, nasty, and filthy. He dropped 81 on the Raptors. Michael never did that, even when they were a new expansion team. (Anything else you might be thinking of is just a misunderstanding.)

    ___ Kobe would never pass to Steve Kerr with the game on the line. He WANTS the ball in crunch time.

    This analysis is clearly biased in favor of Michael because: (add comments below)


    If you think Michael is better, please fill out the form below.

    This comparison is completely ridiculous because (please check one)

    ___ The only stat that matters is the rings baby, and Michael’s got more.

    ___ Matter of fact, Michael would have won 8 or 10 rings playing with Shaq in his prime instead of Will Perdue or Luc Longley.

    ___ Kobe has played during the no-handcheck era or Michael would look even better by comparison.

    This analysis clearly understates Michael’s dominance because: (add comments below)

  3. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    The gap was so wide between Kobe and Jordan, I felt someone needed to publish this. There’s this thought that the two are comparable, but it’s not close. Jordan’s pts/ts% combo is unbelievable for a-non big.

  4. Z

    I think what’s interesting about the conversation is how Knick fans tend to want Jordan to be considered better than Kobe. If the stats came out in Kobe’s favor, I think people would begrudgingly admit Kobe’s stats were better, but then talk about how Shaq was better than Pippen, Jordan made his teammates better, etc…

    The reason this is interesting is because Jordan broke our hearts year in and year out and Kobe has never even faced the Knicks in the playoffs. He’s done nothing to us except taunt us with the fact that LA, through good management, has won rings and contends every year for a championship, the way a huge-market team should.

    I remember the headline of the Daily News the day Kobe was arrested for rape was “Gotcha!”, like he was Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein and an epic manhunt for Public Enemy #1 had finally ended. It made me wonder why NY hated the guy so much. He saved his best games for the Sacramento Kings, not the Knicks, and personality wise he’s really no different than 90% of pro-athletes. It’s not like Ewing, Starks, and Mason (and Jordan too!) were unblemished in their off court conduct.

    I think what it comes down to is NYers (i.e. Knick fans) had an intimate relationship with Jordan. We hated him, but came to respect him. Same as we came to respect the reviled Reggie Miller. Kobe has never given us any reason to turn our disgust into respect Kings fans probably feel the same way about Kobe that we feel about Jordan and Miller.

    Personal preference aside, a priori, I’d say Jordan was better, not just than Kobe, but than anybody who’s ever played in the NBA. That’s not a slight on Kobe. He very well could come in a distant second. But I’d also guess that someone can use stats to prove Jordan was not as good as Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Reggie Miller, or David Lee, so there’s probably more to the debate than advanced stats.

    I would be curious to know the opinions of players that played with/against both Jordan and Kobe. John Salley was a basketball player, but now he’s an entertainer. I’d put more stock in where Ho Grant stands on the matter, or the reviled-turned-respected Reggie Miller himself, who actually chased both around the court in huge playoff series’ in his career.

  5. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, Jordan is so far and away better it’s hilarious to see the comparisons made.

    This does make me think of something I was discussing with someone awhile back – if Jordan played in the league today, do you think he would be a better 3-point-shooter?

    He certainly would take more, but do you think he would devote himself to improving his efficiency there?

    Because clearly, 1980s/1990s Jordan did not shoot the three. 2000s Jordan didn’t either, but by then, he was an entirely different player. So that would have to be a facet of his game that would be different if he played today, right?

    I wonder how he would have adapted to it.

  6. jon abbey

    the other comparison I find laughable is the handful of people who still think Kobe is better than LeBron now. again, not even close, and I don’t need to look at a single stat to tell me that.

    Brian, Jordan worked his whole career on his jump shot, he didn’t have much of one when he came into the league, and by the end of his career, he was automatic from 20 feet. I don’t think he would have gotten there too much quicker if he had been playing today, maybe a bit.

  7. Brian Cronin

    I don’t so much mean the percentages as I mean he would have to change his outside game by taking more, right?

    95-97 were the only two years Jordan took more than 3 threes a game.

    Kobe has been under four threes once in the past six seasons, while Lebron also does not tend to shoot less than four threes a game, and neither Kobe nor Lebron are what you would typically think of as three-point shooters. The three just has become something that shooting guards have to learn how to take nowadays.

    So do you think Jordan would, as well, or would he be like Wade, who just this year went over one and a half a game for the first time in his career (3.5 this past year)?

  8. Z

    Jon– I agree. Living in the LA bubble, there are a lot of folks who think Kobe is the best player in the NBA today. I honestly don’t know if these people exist outside of LA, but it seems crazy to argue you’d rather have Kobe on your team than LeBron right now.

    But that’s in 2009. Career to career it’s obviously too early to tell on either. Kobe’s logged almost 40,000 minutes counting the playoffs. That’s getting close to Jordan’s career mileage. At this point comparing LeBron to Kobe is like comparing Shaq to Hakeem in 1995.

    I’d like to see them meet in the finals, though, just for the sport of it.

  9. upsilonkng

    I think this says it all…. Kobe has never been the best player in the biggest games, the Finals. Never.. ever… And Jordan always was.
    Shaq was the best player by far the times the Lakers won, and then Chauncy and arguably Ben Wallace and Tay Tay were better when the Lakers got their asses handed to them, and last year Paul Pierce, yep that out of shape jump shooter was the better player. If Kobe had done his job, which by most Laker fans account is being the best in the league, Lakers would’ve won. Kobe’s career finals stats? don’t know but I’m sure his shooting is well under 43% and his average is under his playoff average, and I’m pretty sure Jordan averaged well over 30 and shot over 45%. If team sports is about winning, and winning big important games then this simple fact shouldn’t be overlooked. The biggest games for nba players is the NBA Finals, Jordan has more playoff mvp’s than anyone, Kobe’s probably never even finished second? do they even have second?
    ps I live in LA

  10. villainx

    The thing with Jordon, which I thought of when I read that LeBron didn’t do the post much because he found it boring, boredom not withstanding, Jordon worked that and with great efficiency.

    As much as I think Jordon is remembered for the above the rim stuff, his game wasn’t about looking good, or keeping himself entertain, but flat out win.

    And I hate Jordon. And when LeBron figures out the joys of working the post, which is a part of the game that I really enjoy watching, whatever Lebron’s next level is, he’s going to be there.

    I also know this is a silly argument, but Kobe doesn’t have Jordon’s size or big hands, and that Kobe has maximize his play above these, uh, limitations, I think is worth considering.

  11. Gils_Keloids

    … And that’s why you can’t compare individual statistics to evaluate the performance of one player to another.

    The best you can say from those statistics is that MJ was more dominant and successful versus the competition he faced than Kobe was versus his competition.

    No statistical comparison is going to tell you who the better player is.

    Think of it this way, two players with the exact same statistical line for a game could have had a completely different effect on the outcome on the game in both magnitude and direction. If that’s true, that can be applied to two players with the exact same statistics over a career. So, how would a statistical comparison tell you who was better, if their line was the same? How can you tell when it’s different? The statistics (used today, including plus/minus) are like a rough sketch, and the only thing that fills it in is a subjective evaluation. You have to look at the skill set of the players and what your experience tells you.

    The only way to definitively say which player is better … well, there is no definitive way. I could tell you that Kobe is better than Kevin Love, but I wouldn’t do it with statistics. I would show you Kobe’s skill set and compare it to Kevin’s. And you could argue that Kevin was better in some aspects. I wouldn’t agree with you, but I couldn’t prove it to you with the statistics, either.

    It’s all opinions, and will always be opinions, no matter what numbers you use.

  12. Z-man

    Mike,
    Being that I consider your commentary generally fair and well thought out, I was disappointed by your inclusion of part of my recent post in the opening of this thread:

    “Kobe is arguably in the top 10 players of all time and is still in his prime. I dislike the guy and would find him hard to root for if he were a Knick, but he is the 2nd best all-around player in the league and singlehandedly would make just abut any current lottery team a playoff contender.” — Z-man, KnickerBlogger reader

    Where in my quote, or any other I have made on this site, did I suggest that Kobe is better than Michael, as the others quotes you cited did? For the record, Michael is my all-time #1 by a large margin. That being said, Kobe clearly belongs in the discussion of all-time great players… your own eyes are not deceiving you on that point, nor do the stats suggest otherwise no matter how cynically you want to parse them.

    The context of my quote was a reaction to Owen’s statement that he would not have traded David Lee straight up for Kobe. My contention is that David Lee is a “good” player, while Kobe is not simply “good” as you described him, but an all-time great, whether in the top 10, 20, or 50 (Please don’t tell me you don’t even rank him in the top 50 of all time!)

    Whether you agree with Kobe currently being the 2nd best player in the league behind LeBron or not, he did in fact finish 2nd in the MVP voting this year. It is one thing to respectfully disagree, but your inclusion of this part of my statement in making your general point that Kobe is grossly overrated by some is quite a distortion. And I stand by my contention that he makes most current lottery teams instant playoff contenders.

    So, Mike, if you had read more carefully, you would have seen that my quote did not belong with the others.

    On another note, I am also surprised to see so many folks say that Kobe would have no rings without Shaq, and that somehow diminishes his legacy. Tell me, how many rings has Shaq won without Kobe? Oh, yeah, the one in Miami where Shaq was the second best player on HIS team. When Wilt and West, or Magic and Kareem, or Jordan and Pippen, or Reed and Frazier, or Ewing and (oops, skip that one) played together, did one’s greatness diminish the greatness of the other?

  13. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    “Where in my quote, or any other I have made on this site, did I suggest that Kobe is better than Michael, as the others quotes you cited did? For the record, Michael is my all-time #1 by a large margin. That being said, Kobe clearly belongs in the discussion of all-time great players… your own eyes are not deceiving you on that point, nor do the stats suggest otherwise no matter how cynically you want to parse them.”

    You’re right. That’s why I tried to qualify the statement “most of the quotes I chose were from people who thought that Bryant was a better player, it’s realistic to think that there’s a sizable percentage of fans that think Bryant is on the same level as Jordan.” I should have just left it out.

  14. upsilonkng

    “The best you can say from those statistics is that MJ was more dominant and successful versus the competition he faced than Kobe was versus his competition.”

    so how else do we tell players apart as better than? rings?
    I think my initial point can’t be argued, the best players play their best games when it counts the most, the ability to rise above the competition is the heart of the argument for best player ever. Because when they were challenged, they took on the challenge and won. Kobe has never done that on the most important stage, being outplayed by Billups and Pierce and of course Shaq. Jordan always rose to the occasion that’s why he has more playoff mvps than anyone else and why it’s pretty clear there is no real conversation about who’s better…. Let’s put it this way, you replace Kobe w/ a 29 year old Jordan in last year’s finals who do you think would’ve won the title? do you think Pierce could ever outshine Jordan in a finals series?

  15. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    Gils – not sure what your point is? At one point you’re saying that statistics can’t compare players (“that’s why you can’t compare individual statistics to evaluate the performance of one player to another.”) and another you’re saying they are useful (“The statistics [used today, including plus/minus] are like a rough sketch”). The problem with subjective evaluation is that it’s prone to mistakes. To use your analogy, I could be sketching a race horse, but you see it as a bowl of fruit. If you use your subjectivity to paint the picture, it’s going to come out looking bad.

    “I would show you Kobe’s skill set and compare it to Kevin’s.”

    This is the million dollar problem with subjective stats, literally. If anything is the rough sketch, it’s skill set. So many players have great skill sets but little production. For a few years I’ve been saying this about Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford (and others who use numbers), and it only seems that now people are “seeing” it. Curry has one foot out of the league, and after a half season Nelson is hoping that Crawford buys his contract out (good luck on that one).

    “It’s all opinions, and will always be opinions, no matter what numbers you use.”

    Actually the opposite is true. Subjective scouting is always opinion. Statistics, when used properly, is objective.

  16. Gils_Keloids

    Mike,

    This is what you are not getting. Individual statistics require interpretation. And that is where the subjectivity lies.

    The numbers don’t say anything in themselves. If a guys gets 10 rpg and another guy gets 6rpg, does that mean the first guy is the better rebound because 6>10? No, not necessarily. It requires adjustments, maybe per minute, maybe by pace, and what is the players’ role on the team, how much do other players that season average, does he allow other players on his team to get the rebound because of his box out technique? There are so many adjustments to consider.

    Statistics may be objective, but the interpretation of them certainly is not.

    Remember, just because you are using numbers does not make a statistical evaluation of a player any more objective. Especially in the case of Jordan v Kobe, the contexts are so entirely different it makes it almost meaningless.

    And yes, upsilonkng, I can see MJ being upstaged by Pierce, depending on the players involved. It takes five. Please don’t buy into the myth of MJ the single man destroyer of teams.

    But I can accept your arguments more readily than I will a comparison of individual stats.

    For an extreme example, compare the stats of a college player to and NBA player and tell me who is better without looking at the player. You cannot, with any certainty. You would need to know much more than the stats.

  17. Gils_Keloids

    Mike,

    This is what you are not getting. Individual statistics require interpretation. And that is where the subjectivity lies.

    The numbers don’t say anything in themselves. If a guys gets 10 rpg and another guy gets 6rpg, does that mean the first guy is the better rebound because 6>10? No, not necessarily. It requires adjustments, maybe per minute, maybe by pace, and what is the players’ role on the team, how much do other players that season average, does he allow other players on his team to get the rebound because of his box out technique? There are so many adjustments to consider.

    Statistics may be objective, but the interpretation of them certainly is not.

    Remember, just because you are using numbers does not make a statistical evaluation of a player any more objective. Especially in the case of Jordan v Kobe, the contexts are so entirely different it makes it almost meaningless.

    And yes, upsilonkng, I can see MJ being upstaged by Pierce, depending on the players involved. It takes five. Please don’t buy into the myth of MJ the single man destroyer of teams.

    But I can accept your arguments more readily than I will a comparison of individual stats.

    For an extreme example, compare the stats of a college player to and NBA player and tell me who is better without looking at the player. You cannot, with any certainty. You would need to know much more than the stats.

  18. Gils_Keloids

    * does that mean the first guy is the better rebound because 10>6?

    The only thing that makes your view of statistical evaluationg more objective is that you have a set of rules that you follow, regardless of your feelings. But those rules are fraught with assumptions. And those assumptions are subjective.

  19. Z

    “I think my initial point can’t be argued. the best players play their best games when it counts the most..Kobe has never done that on the most important stage.”

    Please.

    In the 2001 playoffs title run Kobe averaged 30pts, 7 rebounds, 6 assists.

    In game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals he had 25 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, and 4 blocks.

    In the 2000 finals he held Reggie Miller scoreless for 3 quarters in game 1, missed game 3 with an injury (the Lakers lost it!), and in game 4, with Shaq fouled out, he carried the team to an overtime victory.

    It’s not like he accidentally won three rings. Shaq was on the Lakers for years and won nothing without Bryant. He may have been the 2nd best player on the team, but he was also the 2nd best player in the league, and he was only 21 years old.

    (I never thought I’d find myself arguing Kobe’s case, but to say your initial point can’t be argued simply begs for it…)

  20. upsilonkng

    It’s not like he accidentally won three rings. Shaq was on the Lakers for years and won nothing without Bryant. He may have been the 2nd best player on the team, but he was also the 2nd best player in the league, and he was only 21 years old.

    (I never thought I’d find myself arguing Kobe’s case, but to say your initial point can’t be argued simply begs for it…)
    My point exactly, he was the second best player in the series that the Lakers won. thanks for making my point stick.
    Jordan’s never been the second best player in the Finals, at least according to the trophys he’s been handed that say mvp of the playoffs. And don’t tell me the competition was easy, plenty of HOF fell along the way, just the finals alone, Magic, Clyde,Sir Charles, GP(eventually?),STockton and Malone, each tried and lost to the better team led by best player in the series. Which of the players that won mvp in the laker’s finals losses are hof players? Chauncy? no, Pierce? I think not but he’s a celtic and every celtic gets in right?
    Can you even say w/ a straight face that Kobe was the second best player in that Detroit series? He was if he was playing for Detroit, he shot horrible, often and basically got his shit thrown and handed back to him. That never happened to Jordan.

    And Pierce couldn’t outshine Jordan in any series, ever. He’s slow , predictable and out of shape and a terrible actor, only Kobe could’ve made him look so good, because Kobe and his team quit, and that’s not the first time. I’d like to see some evidence that Kobe is better than MJ. Other than scoring 81 against a team that didn’t win 20 games that year, David Robinson scored 71 against the Clippers maybe he’s better. At least Jordan got his career high against a playoff team w/ several all stars, can you name a player other than Rose on that Toronto team? not exactly world class.

  21. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    “Remember, just because you are using numbers does not make a statistical evaluation of a player any more objective. Especially in the case of Jordan v Kobe, the contexts are so entirely different it makes it almost meaningless.”

    Their eras do briefly overlap, and the game didn’t radically change over that time span. If this is MLB where the gold standard (let’s say 35 hrs) becomes the norm, then I could agree. If we were comparing Chamberlain vs. Shaq, then I could agree. But this is nonsense. The game hasn’t changed that much where 30ppg on 58% ts% is so far fetched that it has no comparison in today’s game.

    “For an extreme example, compare the stats of a college player to and NBA player and tell me who is better without looking at the player. You cannot, with any certainty. You would need to know much more than the stats.”

    This is reductio ad absurdum. You’re comparing the differences from today’s NBA to Jordan’s era to that of college?

    If anything the college draft shows what happens when you rely primarily on subjective decision making. Since college stats aren’t directly related to NBA performance, teams go on subjective matter: skillset, athleticism, championship, leadership, etc. And you can see how well that goes.

    “The only thing that makes your view of statistical evaluationg more objective is that you have a set of rules that you follow, regardless of your feelings. But those rules are fraught with assumptions. And those assumptions are subjective.”

    If subjectivity is the flaw that makes statistics unreliable, then why would you think that subjectivity without statistics is the best way to judge players?

  22. villainx

    It’s all opinions, and will always be opinions, no matter what numbers you use

    That’s what you say.

    I think the worse arguments, or conversations, resort to “it’s all opinions.” Perceiving objectively, and thinking objectively, isn’t that difficult.

  23. Gils_Keloids

    Mike,

    “This is reductio ad absurdum. You’re comparing the differences from today’s NBA to Jordan’s era to that of college? ”

    No, I just presented an extreme example to illustrate my point.

    And yes, the game has changed, they played against different competitors, played for different teams, in different decades, among other contrasts.

    I don’t have as big a problem with team statistics. The team is the body, the unit that should be measured. Trying to figure out how much your arm does versus your brain when it comes to throwing a ball is silly. How much did your arm do? How much did your brain do? Which is more important?

    Villianx,
    The statement “It’s all opinions” was in the context of using individual basketball statistics, not everything in life. I’m have a degree mathematics, I understand statistics. I am not afraid of them. I also understand the subjectivity and assumptions that are made when most people use the basketball “statistics” (I have to quote them, because even the assigning of individual statistics is subjective in a few ways – assists, for example are the judgment call for the scorekeeper, and then even something like a rebound can be attributed not only to the player, but to the efforts of the whole team, yet the player getting the rebound gets all the credit, same for points, and steals, and blocks, it goes on and on).

    The day someone devises an accurate statistical system to evaluate the performance and contributions of individual soccer players is the day I will believe the same can be done with basketball.

  24. Z

    “My point exactly, he was the second best player in the series that the Lakers won. thanks for making my point stick.”

    Your point was that Kobe’s never had a big game in the playoffs because he was the second best player on his team. That point makes no sense.

    Besides, I’m not arguing Kobe is better than Jordan. As I said in my post above, I think the only people who could possibly argue that are the players that have played with them or against them both. That argument made by anybody else has no basis, as Jordan by every measure has the edge on him.

    But to devalue what Kobe has accomplished just because he’s not as good as Jordan is equally off-base. Much more interesting to me than who is better is: Why Knick fans root against Kobe ever being considered as good as Jordan. I don’t think Knick fans will root against LeBron ever being considered as good as Jordan, even if he stays in Cleveland his whole career.

    In fact, people on this site rooted for the Celtics in the finals last year over rooting for Kobe. Crazy!

    http://www.knickerblogger.net/?p=779

    (This thread, by the way, has the Kobe v. Jordan debate of 2008 on it. Kobe obviously hasn’t done much to win converts since then. But if the Lakers beat the Cavs in the finals this year, it would help his case a lot…)

  25. Owen

    “Besides, I’m not arguing Kobe is better than Jordan. As I said in my post above, I think the only people who could possibly argue that are the players that have played with them or against them both.”

    Seems like a strange point of view. So, if you weren’t an NBA basketball player you can’t have a valid opinion on this?

    My opinion on Kobe is out there already. Obviously I agree 100% with the post.

    One point I would add. I think another thing that confuses people is the relative paucity of great shooting guards in the Kobe/Jordan mold in NBA history with a lot of championships. Before the three point line, it was a big man’s game. I am sure there were a lot of good shooting guards back then, but the only guy who really stands out to me is Jerry West, who posted a career ts% of 55% in an era where the league average was much lower….

    And there haven’t been a lot of guys since. Clyde Drexler is really the only guy other than Jordan who I think is better than Kobe and fits the mold perfectly, although I think Wade will be better than Kobe and I think Manu is better than Kobe per minute.

    But it’s a relatively short list. You pretty much have to put Kobe in the top 5 for shooting guards all time.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?p=1813

    So there just aren’t that many good guys at that position. Which makes Kobe much more unusual than a great big man and makes him look a lot more valuable than he really is, just because of relative novelty.

    And he is also in a big media market.

    I don’t know. I would take KG’s career, Duncan’s career, Malone’s career, Pippen’s career. There are a lot of people who have had much better careers than Kobe but got a lot less credit for it…

  26. Z

    Owen– I didn’t mean to imply only players can judge other players. Not at all. I’m saying that in the face of the overwhelming evidence that Jordan has had a better career than Kobe thus far, not just statistically but in total rings and accolades as well, that the only people who can legitimately argue that Kobe is better are people like Ron Harper and Ho Grant who played with and against them both. If either of them, or other players who matched up against both of them said Kobe was better than Jordan, I think that opens the debate wider than it appears to be at the moment.

    And I agree, for the most part, with the rest of your post above. But please remember, these statistical comparisons only compare half the game that is being played. Without a great statistical measure for defensive contribution it is really impossible to say for sure who the great SGs are, but there is no argument to be made that Kobe is bad on defense. He’s made the all defensive 1st team 7 times and 2nd team 3 times. Jordan made 1st team 9 times, so Kobe will probably catch him before it’s said and done.

    Drexler never made an all defensive team. Ginobli never made an all defensive team. Wade has made one 2nd team.

  27. upsilonkng

    cool, so we’re all in agreement that jordan’s better. that’s all I was after. I’m out.
    And yeah I think Kobe will end up being an all time top 5 shooting guard I would put him just above Clyde because he’s got more rings and maybe mr.nba too. He’s the best 2 playing now even if Wade had a better year, but Dwayne ain’t coming out of the east for a long time unless Bron gets injured or goes to NY.

  28. angelrey4@yahoo.com

    My Reasons why Jordan is way better than Kobe.

    1. Kobe had Shaq!! Without Shaq, Kobe would not have a ring. Remember Shaq played when the Big Man was key. He had to face Hakeem, Robinson, Patrick, a young Duncan, etc. Some may argue that without Kobe, Shaq would not have a ring..that’s not true. The Lakers would have run plays for others and Shaq would’ve average even more points. He would have a few rings. Besides Shaq took the Magic to the finals and with a few more shots going in, the Magic could’ve have won. Shaq was also the difference in Miami, even though he wasn’t the best player, he pushed them over the hump. Also, Shaq had to deal with Hakeem when he faced Rockets in the finals.
    2. The players Jordan played against were some of the best players ever….Drexler, Robinson, Malone, Bird, Barkley, Stockton….I could go on. There are only a few players today that can be put in that category today. Two of those are LeBron and Kobe, and I don’t think Kobe is better than LeBron. Jordan also had to face better defenses and defenders. Nowadays, you can’t even touch a player without being called for a foul.
    3. You may not like Stats but that’s how we rate everything and Jordan stats surpass that of Kobe. For the exception of 3-point field goal, Jordan is ahead in all. For the record Jordan didn’t shoot many three’s and Kobe is just a nut/ball-hog.
    4. Defender…Jordan has won defender of the year…Kobe hasn’t. Remember Jordan won when Hakeem, Robinson, Rodman were around. No one in the league today is a better defender than Rodman or Hakeem.
    5. Team player……really do I have to speak on that…Kobe ran Shaq out of town because he wants the credit for bringing a ring to LA by himself. Jordan’s Bulls were dismantled by the ownership. The Bulls could’ve won at least 1 more ring. #4 is funny/ironic to me because if the Lakers win this year, Kobe is a huge part but without Gasol…I don’t know. However, Jordan’s will to win at all cost by including his teammates is something that Kobe doesn’t have.
    6. If Jordan would’ve ended up in Portland and Kobe in Charlotte…..I think that Jordan would’ve gotten a ring somehow. Kobe, I don’t think so.
    7. The calls made today by ref’s and all of the rule changes made by the league favor the Superstars who are scorers. Really do you think someone like teh Pacer’s Danny Granger would’ve averaged 25 points during the Jordan days. I don’t think so
    8. Teams…..compare teams today with the teams of the Jordan days. Find one team today that could’ve matched up with the Rockets, the Knicks (twice in the finals), the Jazz (twice in the finals), The Suns (once in the finals), the Spurs, etc. Take the Suns for instance the worst team of those mentioned…they probably would be one of the best teams today, if not the best. Today’s Cleveland, Lakers, Nuggets would not get past Barkley’s suns or Malone’s Jazz, or even Patrick’s Knicks.
    9. Selfish=Kobe……Unselfish=Jordan
    10. I could go on…but i have a job!!

  29. Owen

    I won’t argue Manu vs. Kobe, done it too many times, but the stats speak loudly on the matter, and not just the box score stats. Manu has been top ten repeatedly in many non box score metrics and his defensive numbers have often been at the top of the league. And he has as much hardware as Kobe, including a gold medal. It’s also been pretty clear historically how much it has hurt the Spurs in the playoffs when Manu has been injured.

    I really don’t agree that what the players think matters all that much. I have listened to ex players broadcasting more than long enough to know that having been able to play the game well doesn’t necessarily mean you understand it.

    Which is what stat types are always accused of thinking of course, but I am not afraid to admit I feel that way….

  30. Gils_Keloids

    That must have been a gigantic Freudian slip, because I meant the exact opposite. BIG SMILEY FACE!

  31. Z

    “It’s also been pretty clear historically how much it has hurt the Spurs in the playoffs when Manu has been injured”

    The Lakers haven’t exactly been great when Kobe gets hurt (or goes on trial for rape).

    “I have listened to ex players broadcasting more than long enough to know that having been able to play the game well doesn’t necessarily mean you understand it”.

    But some players do understand it, you have to admit, right? And those players, if they said something that conflicted with your statistical interpretations, would make you re-think your stance, no? Are there any ex-players you can think of that “understand the game”? Jerry West? Bil Russell? Larry Bird? Bob Cousy? Charles Oakley? John Stockton? Magic? Kareem? Jordan?

    If any of these guys argued Kobe was better than Manu Ginobli, Clyde Drexler, Dwayne Wade, or Eddie Jones* that wouldn’t effect your opinion at all?

    Just curious.

    * I like the “just missed” list of Brent Barry, Dan Majerle, and the Jamal Crawford of his day World B. Free!

    (World B. Free: Best name ever? Yes. Best shooting guard ever? Not even close…)

  32. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    “But some players do understand it, you have to admit, right? And those players, if they said something that conflicted with your statistical interpretations, would make you re-think your stance, no? Are there any ex-players you can think of that “understand the game”?”

    Yeah but how do you know which ones? Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, and Larry Bird were great thinking players – but they’ve been sub-standard GMs. So obviously just being an ex-player (even a great one) doesn’t mean the person is able to evaluate players at a higher level than others.

  33. Z-man

    In a way, Jordan revolutionized the position of shooting guard. There were many excellent shooting guards before him, from Dumars to Earl the Pearl, to Jerry West, but they all generally played below the rim. Since Jordan, there have been a lot of imitators, including Kobe, Vince Carter, McGrady, and others. Because of this, it is hard to compare these guys to shooting guards from the past. While all positions have gotten bigger, stronger and faster, I would argue that the shooting guard position has changed the most. The PF position is also much different, many 7′ 3-point specialists at that position now, but there are also quite a few old-school PF’s (David Lee is a real throwback!) However, smaller, below-the rim-playing SG’s can’t be asked to guard Kobe, Wade, etc. For example, I think West and Monroe, while they could score on anybody, would have been overmatched defensively vs. Jordan, Drexler, Kobe, LeBron, Wade, Roy, etc.

    In that sense, Jordan was a physical mismatch against virtually every SG in the league for most of his career, except maybe Drexler, who he had to out-talent. Kobe has definitely faced superior athletic defenders because of the way Jordan changed the position. I also think that some things mentioned in defense of Jordan negate each other, e.g.hand-checking allowed in 90′s negated by zone defenses allowed recently and crackdown on palming and traveling employed nightly by Jordan. Still, there is no getting around that Jordan is the greatest all-around basketball player ever, clearly better than Kobe, and that only LeBron has a chance to surpass him.

    Interestingly, it was thought that Magic would revolutionize the PG position, but it seems like that position had gone back in the opposite direction towards smaller players after a few false starts (Walt Williams and Penny Hardaway, to name 2). An interesting argument would be: who enjoyed the greatest physical/talent combined advantage ever at his position–Wilt, Magic, or Michael?

  34. Z

    “Yeah but how do you know which ones? Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, and Larry Bird were great thinking players – but they’ve been sub-standard GMs. So obviously just being an ex-player (even a great one) doesn’t mean the person is able to evaluate players at a higher level than others.”

    Yeah, I understand that point, and it is certainly valid. But you can put your faith in some people more than others, based on what you know about them. I guess it’s kind of like getting married, or choosing which people to date. If we depended on an accepted metric to guide us, we’d all die virgins…

    It is interesting, though, that good players tend not to be good broadcasters, coaches, or GMs. Maybe it’s because what made them great is the competitive drive, which doesn’t translate very well to a desk job.

    Broadcasters are hired because they fit a niche– they appeal and speak to the common fans, not the stat-heads, so there’s no reason to expect decent analysis from ex-players.

    It’s also difficult to really assess GMs. A lot of what they do is dictated by ownership, budget restraints, and plain dumb luck. The best GMs, though, certainly seem to be people who never played professionally.

    I’m not sure I’d put Bird in the same group with Isiah. Larry has a good coaching resume (3 straight conference finals appearances, one trip to the finals) and as GM his hands are still handcuffed by the Detroit Brawl. He only brings in players without off-court baggage (which is very limiting in the NBA), which I think is a policy mandated by Pacer ownership.

    Larry’s not-prone to hyperbole either. If he says Manu is better than Kobe I’d listen. More so than if Dave Berri says it.

  35. BigBlueAL

    This comparison is ridiculous. I mean I LOVE Kobe and he is my favorite player in the NBA right now but its an insult to Jordan to compare Kobe to him.

    I think the problem is most people now only remember the slower, older MJ of the 2nd 3-peat after he returned from baseball. I dont think most people realize how insane his stats were before he even won a championship.

    I mean MJ one season averaged 37.1 ppg, another season 35.0 ppg and one season besides averaging 32.5 ppg he also averaged exactly 8 reb and 8 asts per game something Lebron has never even done. Let alone the fact that he had other seasons where he scored 33.6 and 32.5 like I said before he ever even won a title. Defensively he lead the league in steals 3 times while having 6 seasons of averaging at least 2.7 steals per game. Let alone the fact he had 2 seasons where he averaged 1.5 blocks per game as well. Kobe doesnt come anywhere near MJ in any of those stats.

    Mike you should have John Hollinger write something up about this because I know he gets frustrated when people compare Kobe to MJ. He too has mentioned the only player who comes close to comparing to MJ is Lebron yet he doesnt have the titles obviously yet to really be involved in a real debate between him and MJ.

    Lastly MJ played most of his career in a time, especially when he got older, where the NBA was actually physical and mugging players on the perimeter was basically legal. No cheap ticky-tacky flagrant fouls either. If the young MJ played in today’s NBA I truly believe he wouldve averaged 40 ppg at least once. Like I said I LOVE watching Kobe and still would pick him over Lebron today (if they meet in the Finals the results could change my opinion though) but he is still nowhere near MJ’s level.

  36. Owen

    Z – I am actually relying on Dean Oliver for this one, though Berri would agree. Manu has a better career offensive and defensive rating than Kobe. Significantly so. He has more professional titles. He has as many gold medals.There is no statistical argument Kobe is better on a per minute basis. And from what I have seen, Manu comes out looking pretty good from the perspective of adjusted +- as well. He was better from 2004-6, worse in 06-07 (but tenth in the league), and better last year.

    Kobe has played 20,000 more minutes. That’s the reason you might say he is better.

    Z-Man – I agree about your point about Magic, although I think Lebron is a pretty close facsimile…

  37. upsilonkng

    I think this Manu vs kobe thing is out of control. Part of being a so-called superstar is being able to play a lot of minutes and a lot of games. Manu’s game might make him a superstar in a lot of ways but he’s never had to carry a team w/ his minutes and games played, that burden has fallen on Timmy and he looks the part now, worn out. I dislike Manu because he flops like crazy, I mean that’s his best defense… acting like a damn fool. I say man up manu, Stockton drew charges but he’d also punch you when the refs weren’t looking. you can help your team and still act like a grown man. Regardless there aren’t superstars that play less than 30 minutes a game, now or historically. At least a perimeter player, w/ bigs it’s different because of foul trouble or whatever. I would compare Manu to McHale a superstar bench guy who starts here and there and gets very good stats while he’s in there and is w/out a doubt a difference maker but not better than Kobe.

  38. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    “It is interesting, though, that good players tend not to be good broadcasters, coaches, or GMs. Maybe it’s because what made them great is the competitive drive, which doesn’t translate very well to a desk job.”

    I’d add that since things come naturally to them, they don’t understand the learning process. Imagine a piano prodigy trying to teach children. They may not understand the tough steps the kids have to conquer to get on a competent level – since the prodigy didn’t have those same hurdles. Also they may not understand that some players have limitations. The superstar may feel that what they accomplished was due to hard work as opposed to innate ability. So they feel that others players should be able to accomplish the same goal as well – when it just may not be possible for the lesser player to make a change.

    I always think about baseball where Babe Ruth and Ted Williams weren’t successful managers (Ruth never got a shot – Williams didn’t do much in 2 years in Washington). They were the two best players for the first 100 years of baseball but were never considered for the managers job. Because that job requires a radically different skillset than that of player.

  39. Moses

    Or how about the fact that people played baseball for a century without realizing the importance of the scarcity of outs?

    Many of the people involved in professional sports are simply not very smart. Everyone remembers the guy in their highschool who was dominant in one or more sports but who could barely read and write.

    Who do you think plays professional sports? And who, after retiring, gets hired to coach or manage a team?

    Most of these guys wouldn’t understand true shooting percentage if you explained it twenty times in a row with diagrams.

  40. Owen

    “I think this Manu vs kobe thing is out of control. Part of being a so-called superstar is being able to play a lot of minutes and a lot of games. Manu’s game might make him a superstar in a lot of ways but he’s never had to carry a team w/ his minutes and games played, that burden has fallen on Timmy and he looks the part now, worn out.”

    Perfectly fair argument, although I would note that Kobe gets paid twice as much as Manu.

  41. upsilonkng

    “Perfectly fair argument, although I would note that Kobe gets paid twice as much as Manu.”

    Well Manu’s never averaged 20 pts a game and has only eclipsed the 30 minute mark once in 7 years, while Kobe on the other hand in those same 7 years has averaged over 40 minutes a game 4 times!! and scored over 26.8 every year but one.
    Plus Manu is a great complimentary player for Duncan, who’s Kobe the complimentary player of now.. that shaq’s long gone.
    Carrying a team night in and night out takes a lot out of anyone, being able to show up 1 out of 2 games and have an impact is a lot easier, or as far as this year goes maybe one out of 4 games for Manu.

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